Really Listening to Reviews

currently playing on my laptop: M62 Song by The Doves

In addition to working myself up over a game I never watch during this Super Bowl weekend, I perused several reader reviews on youtube. I focused on books that have the same genre, tone, and audience as my writing.

It was enlightening.

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So you have a sampling at your fingertips…

This is one from The Book Basement on The Winner’s Curse.  And here is one on An Ember in the Ashes from Whitty Novels. Here is another from The Book Basement on An Ember in the Ashes. 

Now it’s not like I haven’t read a billion book reviews. And I’ve talked books with everyone from the woman ringing me up at the grocery to the man standing beside me at the gas pump. But focusing on recent releases similar in flavor to my own stories, really amped the experience.

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Here is what I picked up.

  1. As always, EVERYTHING is so very, very, very, very, veryyyy subjective. One person loved the romance. The other thought it should’ve stayed a friendship. What one thought boring, the other relished. But there are still tidbits to glean from reviews.
  2. Readers are totally good with subtle. They don’t need us to spell everything out. It’s even viewed by some as insulting. Your readers are smarties. Don’t smack them over the head with how each person feels, hints to the mystery, and so on. They will see that one little movement, glance. They will hear the tone in that dialogue. People who buy your book dive in and they pay close attention to the story—oftentimes more so than—dare I say it?—your betas, agent, or your mom. (Not my agent though. She knows every last detail and God knows I love her for it.)
  3. They truly appreciate great writing. Yes, there are books with craptastic writing that do very well. BUT hard core readers that stick with you for your career want your best prose. Don’t think for a second that young readers will let less than stellar writing slide. The YA readers in the reviews I watched were right on target with knowing what was good and what was less than.
  4. Romance isn’t necessary to some people. I’m a huge romantic. Always have been. But there are many readers who are just fine with a sparkling, gut-tugging friendship. Let your characters tell you where to go on this. Let it be natural. Don’t force a romance just because Mr. Darcy is your favorite. (I’m talking to myself here.)
  5. If there is romance, it had better develop in a real-life manner. Friends do become lovers, but it is awkward at first, and scary. Strangers can fall in love, but they do it slowly, with some false starts. Make the romance grow at its own, organic pace.

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I encourage you to watch some reviews and report back to your fellow writers!

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6 Responses to Really Listening to Reviews

  1. C.S. Wilde says:

    Ours is indeed a very subjective business.

  2. What a cool idea to read reviews on books like yours to get ideas for your own novel.

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